Dharamsala, March 26 - “Tuberculosis (TB) has plagued our community for so long. Worst of all, TB is draining the air out of the lungs of our core youth population, who are otherwise at their peak intellectual and physical capacity to contribute to the community at large”, said Dr. Kunchok Dorjee, Tuberculosis Programme Director at Delek Hospital, Dharamsala on World TB Day on March 24, 2011.
Department of Health, Tibetan Delek Hospital and AISPO, an Italian governmental NGO based at Delek Hospital have launched a series of awareness campaigns including organising a Basketball tournament in Dharamsala, which was viewed by the young and old as an innovative and efficient method to draw the youngsters, who indeed are the prime victims of TB in the community. The huge banner that hung against the Basketball court-wall read, “Play Against TB, Score Against TB, Team Up Against TB, Stop TB”.
Health Kalon Mr. Paljor Tsering said, “MDR TB is a surging problem in our community and we must take steps to prevent the further spread of this deadly infection”.
MDR-TB is that form of TB, where the TB bacteria are resistant to the usual standard TB medications needing a complete new set of medications which are less potential and carry far more side-effects and nearly 150 times more expensive than the usual TB medicines.
More concerning is the fact that now Extensively Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB) cases are emerging in our community, which carries a far higher mortality. Treating one case of XDR-TB cost around Rs. 4,00,000. Treatment duration of treating an MDR and XDR TB is usually around 2 years.
Embedded in the theme of all these health campaigns including public health-talks, online panel discussion on TV, TB awareness posters and Facebook campaigns is the unanimous message that “Awareness and Prevention” is the most important weapon to fight TB.
“Preventing and stopping TB is a shared responsibility of the Department of Health and the Tibetan people,” said Dr. Kunchok Dorjee adding that it calls for responsibility from the TB patients to wear facemask properly, from the attendants of the patients to wear mask, from the general public to spread TB awareness and to visit the doctor whenever they have cough for more than two weeks so that community transmission can be prevented at the earliest.
Dr. Kunchok Dorjee concludes, “Our community has all the factors ripe to breed an HIV-AIDS epidemic in the near future. HIV-AIDS is the biggest driver of TB. Given the already high prevalence of TB, if we have a pandemic situation of both TB and HIV, then our entire generation is at risk”.